“It is something, indeed; but before God it is not enough, nor half enough. I see now that ‘enough’ may never come: almost I doubt if I, who swore to you it should come, and since have desired it madly, desire it any longer; and until it comes you are still the winner. ‘Enough’ shall be said, Princess—for my price rises—not when (as I promised) you come to me without choosing to be loved or hated, only beseeching your master, but when you shall come to me having made your choice. . . . But so far, so good,” said I, cheerfully, changing my tone. “You do not ask where I lead. I am leading you, if I can to Cape Corso, to my father; and by his help, if it shall serve, to your mother.”
“I thank you, cavalier,” she said, still in her restrained voice. “You are a good man; and for that reason I am sorry you will not hearken to me.”
“The mountains are before us,” said I, shouldering my gun. “Listen, Princess: let us be good comrades, us two. Let us forget what lies at the end of the journey—the convent for you, may be, and for me at least the parting. My life has been spared to-day, and I tell you frankly that I am glad of the respite. For you, the mountains hold no slanders, and shall hold no evil. Put your hand in mine on the compact, and we will both step it bravely. Forget that you were ever a Princess or I a promised king of this Corsica! O beloved, travel this land, which can never be yours or mine, and let it be ours only for a while as we journey.”
I turned and led the way up the path between the bushes: and she followed my stride almost at a run. On the bare mountain-spur above the high-road she overtook and fell into pace with me: and so, skirting Nonza, we breasted the long slope of the range.
MY WEDDING DAY.
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge
in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us
see whether the vine hath budded and the tender grape appear.—
The Song of Songs.
Ahead of us, high on our right, rose the mountain ridges, scarp upon scarp, to the snowy peak of Monte Stella; low on our left lay Nonza, and beyond it a sea blue as a sapphire, scarcely rippled, void save for one white sail far away on the south-west horizon—not the Gauntlet; for, distant though she was, I could make out the shape of her canvas, and it was square cut.
Nonza itself lay in the shadow of the shore with the early light shimmering upon its citadel and upper works—a fortress to all appearance asleep: but the Genoese pickets would be awake and guarding the northward road for at least a league beyond, and to avoid them we must cross the high mountain spurs, using where we could their patches of forest and our best speed where these left the ridges bare.